The European Union is referring Poland to Europe’s top court over long-standing concerns about respect for the rule of law and the independence of the country’s Supreme Court judges, EU officials said. The commission considers Poland in violation of EU law for allowing the country’s Disciplinary Chamber of the Supreme Court to make decisions, which have a direct impact on judges and the way, they do their jobs, undermining judicial independence. “These matters include cases of the lifting of immunity of judges with a view to bringing criminal proceedings against them or detain them, and the consequent temporary suspension from office and the reduction of their salary,” the European Commission said.
In November 2020, the Disciplinary Chamber suspended Judge Igor Tuleya and cut his salary by 25 per cent. Tuleya, who was critical of the changes to the justice system, has become the symbol of the struggle for judicial independence in Poland. He was the third judge critical of Polish Justice Ministry policies to be suspended by the Disciplinary Chamber of the Supreme Court, which is largely composed of government loyalists.
The regulations introduced by the government since it took power in 2015 have forced some of the older judges into retirement, notably those critical of government moves. The government is filling the jobs with loyalists and insists the changes are needed to restructure the justice system away from what remains from the communist era. Critics insist that most of the personnel has already been changed since then, and claim that the government’s intention is to exert political control over the judiciary.